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Emily LakdawallaNovember 13, 2013

Just what is going on in that magnificent Cassini image of Saturn?

It took months of work (and no wonder) but the wait was worth it: here is Cassini's spectacular view of Saturn, captured on July 19, 2013, as Cassini passed through Saturn's shadow.

In Saturn's Shadow (The Day the Earth Smiled)

NASA / JPL / SSI

In Saturn's Shadow (The Day the Earth Smiled)
On July 19, 2013 Cassini passed into Saturn's shadow and turned toward the Sun, capturing an image of the planet's night side and the weirdly lit semi-transparent rings. Cassini also captured seven of the moons and three planets. This was the third time our home planet was imaged from the outer solar system; the second time it was imaged by Cassini from Saturn's orbit; and the first time ever that inhabitants of Earth were made aware in advance that their photo would be taken from such a great distance.

This photo is amazing, but also confusing. I thought I would try to explain some of the cool stuff you can see with a little video demonstration:

In Saturn's Shadow

Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society reveals the hidden features of this spectacular photo mosaic of the planet Saturn, as seen by NASA's Cassini mission in 2013.

It's also interesting to compare the photo to a similar one, taken in 2006, with the rings tilted the other way.

In Saturn's Shadow (2006)

NASA / JPL / SSI

In Saturn's Shadow (2006)
With giant Saturn hanging in the blackness and sheltering Cassini from the sun's blinding glare, the spacecraft viewed the rings as never before, revealing previously unknown faint rings and even glimpsing its home world.

Read more: pretty pictures, Cassini, podcasts and videos, Saturn's small moons, Saturn's moons, Saturn, Saturn's rings

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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Emily Lakdwalla
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